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I don’t know about you, but for me, middle school was horrible. I arrived at an all-male school in a still very homophobic era as a small, nervous, Michael Jackson fanatic. Don’t worry - I’m going somewhere with this. For three years, life was hell. Then I found my tribe—the drama nerds. Maybe we couldn’t beat you up, but you had to respect the artistry. In high school, Tribalism was power. 

My guest today is Yale Law professor Amy Chua, who shook the Internet up a few years back with her book BATTLE HYMN OF THE TIGER MOTHER. What upset some progressive American parents most, it seems, was the suggestion that they were members of a parenting tribe. A cultural bubble with its own fallible set of assumptions.  

In her powerful new book POLITICAL TRIBES: GROUP INSTINCT AND THE FATE OF NATIONS, Amy points out that long past high school, group instinct is much stronger than Americans generally like to admit. And that this cognitive blind spot has led to our repeatedly shooting ourselves in the foot, at home and abroad.  

Surprise conversation-starter clips in this episode

Michael Norton on the link between money and happiness, Derek Thompson on “coolness”

Amy Chua Quote: I think it’s because I study developing countries that I really feel that many people in America on both sides of the political divide don’t realize that they’re playing with fire. I’ve been studying countries like the former Yugoslavia and Venezuela, which is now practically a failed state, and Indonesia where there are riots and killings… Tribalism has a real dark side. And once these dynamics get going, it’s very hard to stop.

About Think Again - A Big Think Podcast: Since 2008, Big Think has been sharing big ideas from creative and curious minds. Since 2015, the Think Again podcast has been taking us out of our comfort zone, surprising our guests and Jason Gots, your host, with unexpected conversation starters from Big Think’s interview archives.

You've got 10 minutes with Einstein. What do you talk about? Black holes? Time travel? Why not gambling? The Art of War? Contemporary parenting? Some of the best conversations happen when we're pushed outside of our comfort zones. Each week on Think Again, we surprise smart people you may have heard of with short clips from Big Think's interview archives on every imaginable subject. These conversations could, and do, go anywhere.